When to Prune a Barberry Bush

Updated February 21, 2017

Barberry is a widely grown ornamental shrub whose thorns make it useful for barriers or hedge plantings. Barberry is known for its red fruits and showy fall colours. This shrub is easy to transplant and can tolerate most light conditions and soil types. Shrubs like barberry that are grown primarily for foliage should generally be pruned in spring before the annual growth spurt.

At Planting

When planting, thin out barberry branches to achieve proper spacing. Also, cut off any diseased, damaged or circling roots. Barberry shrubs being planted for hedges can be trimmed to within 6 inches of the soil surface.

Formal Hedges

Maintaining barberry for formal hedges can require multiple prunings each year. Hedge plants must be pruned soon after being transplanted to prevent the shrub from getting spindly and open at the base. Shrubs planted for hedges can be pruned to within 6 inches of the ground. Formal hedges are often pruned after the spring growth flush has occurred. Subsequent shearings must occur throughout the growing season to remove any out-of-place new growth.

Informal Hedges

Like formal hedges, barberries in an informal hedge should be pruned soon after transplant. However, where a formal hedge is pruned throughout the growing season to remove unsightly new growth, an informal hedge may only be pruned once or twice per year. An intensive pruning can be done in late winter or early spring before new growth appears. A less rigorous pruning acts as a follow-up in midsummer.

Maintenance Pruning

Corrective light pruning can be performed anytime throughout the year, but it is preferable to avoid any unnecessary pruning in late fall or winter in cold climates. Remove any dead, dying, broken or insect-infested branches. Additionally, any branches or branch stubs that rub together can be removed.

Renewal Pruning

Barberry plants are extremely responsive to drastic renewal pruning. With this method, the entire plant is pruned to near ground level. This type of pruning is best done during the late dormant season. The barberry will subsequently produce a multitude of young shoots. These will need to be thinned out.

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About the Author

Angela Ryczkowski is a professional writer who has served as a greenhouse manager and certified wildland firefighter. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in urban and regional studies.